“Let’s Talk” Ambassador to Taiwan with「在心中希望的種子」

Sato from ‘Sato Taneya’ in Rikuzentakada city and I have been to Taiwan together. Our vision was to thank people in Taiwan in Chinese for the huge amount of help victims of the earthquake received from them. The main point was to spread seeds of friendship around the world.

General incorporated association ‘Let’s Talk Foundation (Director: Tsuyoshi Komori, Komo) and Nittaiwakamono Kouryuukai (Director: Naoki Anzai) had a strong relationship with Sato and helped a large amount with planning the trip to Taiwan.

The schedule was for 3 days from June 20th (Fri) to 22nd(Sun) 2014. Sato could give his message to about 230 people from Taiwan. We could spread the seeds of hope through these oversea meetings. 

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The main theme was ‘The Seed of Hope in the Heart’

The main theme was ‘The Seed of Hope in the Heart’.Sato has been a member of Komo’s English reading aroud class at Rikuzentakada since we started. In 2011 March, he managed to escape from the Tsunami with some extraordinary luck but because he wasn’t insured he lost almost everything. His house, possessions and business.

He worked so hard then finally he could reconstruct his family nursery company with his own two hands while at the same time studying English and Chinese by himself and writing down his memories of the earthquake. He is sending out his messages to people around the world from the wilderness of Rikuzentakada in Sanriku Kesennuma area.

The brochures name is ‘The Seed of Hope in the Heart’ in English and ‘在心中希望的種子’ in Chinese. This process started in 2011 during winter. The general incorporated associationLet’s Talk Foundation was planning to support the stricken area in creating international relationships.

Because of this we held the ‘Komo’s English class at Rikuzentakada’ once a month. Sato joined our meeting in 2011 December just after we started. At that time, he hoped to talk to visiting foreigners in English. Our members helped him to write down his memories of the earthquake in English. He finished his work 1 year after the earthquake in March 2012. The title is ‘ The Seed of Hope in the Heart’. It is a rare thing for an actual earthquake victim to be writing about the earthquake in English. Today his book has spread out into the world and now more than 1300 people are reading them. We are currently publishing the 4th edition now.


Writing Chinese version – ‘在心中希望的種子’

Sato had another reason to study too. This was to thank Taiwanese people who came to the area to help and give monetary support right after the earthquake.

It’s not only Sato who wanted to thank Taiwan. They helped us so much. For instance the The Taiwanese charitable institution ‘慈済’(Tu-Chi-) provided 50,000 yen for each victim’s family. Still though the situation was not suitable to go overseas to say thank you to them. there are not many people who’s possible to visit Taiwan. So Sato’s got the idea to write a letter in Chinese. I (Komo) clearly remember the time when he gave me a piece of paper which was written in Chinese. It was 2012 June. He gave me that and said ‘ I want to try it’ .

So just after that, our member who is from Taiwan (Hsin Nakano) started to support him, Tin-Tin Chou who was living in Taiwan wrote the final version it took 1 year to create the Chinese version of memorial of earthquake. This is following the English version but Sato also wrote the book to suit Chinese speakers better. There are no books similar to this.


Deciding to visit Taiwan.

Since we succeeded in creating this book, Sato and I naturally started thinking about going to Taiwan and giving the messages directly. Then we simply asked ‘Maybe we will be able to visit Taiwan?’

In 2014 Spring we decided to visit Taiwan this June after the busiest time of the year for the seeds spreading. To make this plan come true, we asked the group already supporting the community for Taiwanese and Japanese. We decided to do this project together. I (Komo) had never been to Taiwan so I visited there at the end of the March before the other members. At that time I made some connections with this community group. Some people from Let’s take, some Facebook friends and I proceeded with the plan of visiting Taiwan.

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At the same time, sato was busy preparing the power point and scripts for his message. A Let’s talk member helped him with that. After he completed writing the script, he practiced hard reading just before visiting Taiwan, he surprised the Chinese speakers with his ability.

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I guess in the 3 months of practicing time, he was read it out a few hundreds times. He never learned about method of Chinese language before but he kept copying to pronounce the teaching materials audios


The first day in Taiwan: June 20th(Fri)

Early in the morning, Sato left Rikuzentakada and came to Tokyo station. We met there and departed from Haneda airport by Eva Air. We arrived in Taipei Songshan Airport just after 3 PM.

That evening we held the first speech. The venue was Soochow University. There were about 20 people who just finished the end of term exams. I gave the opening speech in Chinese and after that Sato gave his speech.

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There were some special guests such as 錢林慧君 and 李安妮博士 (a daughter of 李登輝元總統). After the talking session, we did some questions and answers. Overall it was quite relaxing and nice.

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After the meeting, 錢林 and 李 were asking Sato how he learned Chinese. Sato answered with a bit shyly ‘ I never study’. and explained about his practice of reading.

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We are very thankful to the professor of Japanese major 彭. She supported us so much. after the meeting she held the party at the cafeteria inside the university. We were so happy about that.

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Second day of Taiwan: June 21st (Sat)

On the second day, we moved to Taichung by Taiwanese bullet train. 林 who is living in Taichung and has some experience in Japan helped us driving and translating. We met at the Taichung station at 9:30 AM.

At first we went to a 921 earthquake education center. After looking around Sato gave his speech for the staff there.

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The speech given in Taiwan was always the same but this audience had a special connection to the topic so everyone was very interested in what Sato had to say. It became an especially passionate speech because of this.

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In the afternoon Sato’s gave a speech at NUTC and there were about 120 Japanese major students. Due to the size we divided the class in two and gave the speech twice.

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Sato’s voice became hoarse as he said ‘I didn’t come here by myself. I came with 2000 victim’s soul from Rikuzentakada so I should hang on‘. Until the end he was talking with a strong voice. He received huge praise.

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In the night, Dr.許 國文 (財団法人羅許基金会羅東博愛医院 董事長) invited us for dinner. We could introduce him to the members of Let’s talk foundation. We were happy to get this chance.

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3rd day in Taiwan : June 22nd (Sun)

On 3rd day, we stayed in Taipei. in the morning we visited the charity group ‘慈済’ office. 慈済 helped Rikuzentakada straight after the earthquake and we can never forget about that. (Mr. Tanaka, CEO of GO Beyond Co. Ltd helped me to contact with them).

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Sato was looking forward to visiting and thanking this group in particular. We could meet the leader of the supporting group for Rikuzentakada. We talked for quite some time.

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After that we got interviewed by a TV company 大愛 which was owned by 慈済.

See the show on > http://www.daai.tv/daai-web/news/content.php?id=47513 )

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After the interview, when we were looking around the building we came across a miracle.

Sato brought a shirts called ‘miserable shirts’ which he was using just after the earthquake. on the shirts, there is the Chinese character decoration with the characters ‘平安’. We got this decoration when 慈済 visited Sato’s neighborhood and gave it to him. So for each of Sato’s speeches he talked about this episode.

Then we heard a voice. ‘Sato san…?’

There was the woman who gave Sato that exact decoration! She found Sato in the hall and talked to us. Sato was like ‘AHH!!’ he realized who she was very quickly, too. She was visiting this building just by accident. Sato was so happy and his thick voice saying ‘She is the one~~~!’ Echoed through the hall. Both of them remembered about that time and they had a friendly chat.

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I can’t find any better word for this story but miracle. As I watched them I couldn’t stop crying. There were so many people around us but I just couldn’t stop.

Then we went to the famous tea shop called ‘廣方園’. We understood that shop owner and his families are whole caring about Japan. We enjoyed a nice tea time in the gorgeous interior of charcoal fire and Nambu Ironware from Iwate.

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In the afternoon we had the following event planned. The 3.11 Eastern Japan earthquake. What can we learn from these 3 years’. We hired a community group’s hall.

The event information is below↓

  1. Date:June 22nd (Sun)2014 14:00~16:30 (Open 13:30~)
  2. Place: Community group Taipei office culture hall.
  3. Fees: Free
  4. Contents:
  • ‘The knot. let’s learn ~support opportunity in Tohoku, Let’s talk foundation CEO 古森 剛.
  •  「在心中希望的種子, Iwate Rikuzentakada   Sato taneya CEO 佐藤貞一.
  •   Workshop. ‘ learn from 3.11~ knowledge of protection’,  meeting Taiwanese and Japanese. QUIZ style.

About 70 people joined this session including 李雪峰 from 台湾高座会. First I gave opening remarks in Chinese then Sato gave his message in Chi

In all these sessions Sato gave his speech in the same style but his Chinese got better every time and seeing was very surprising.

This time there were some people who didn’t speak Chinese so Sato used a bit of Japanese for support.

Then, without planning it there was an introduction for 平林克己 who took photographs in the disaster area of the earthquake.He is opening an expo overseas in places like Shanghai. He’s also planning to hold a showing in Taiwan this autumn.

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Last was the quiz session about disaster prevention with professor 石田光義 from 淡江大学 and 岩本由起子 from 淡江大学国際事務與戦略研究所. It was great fun we all moved around. I think we could give some important knowledge to the audience.

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羅 坤燦 from 台湾外交部亜東関係協 invited us to a welcome dinner. We communicated with them in a number of different ways.

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The end of the planned trip.

The next morning, we left our hotel at 5 am and took a flight at 7 by Eva airlines. We arrived in Haneda just before noon. Sato went back to Iwate by bullet train and arrived at home in the evening.

These are comments from Sato after visiting Taiwan. We borrowed them from his facebook.


-Start quote——-

Just after arriving overseas, I was caught up in a storm of applause on stage at a university. What’s this? I had never entered the university classrooms before. I’m just a seed shop owner in the small town of Japan. I don’t have any status, I’m not an amazing person. ‘He looks young, looks clever’. People were looking at me straight. Does he really speak Chinese?’’ also I felt their kindness and an excited feeling from them.

Now, Taiwanese students, listen to me! I don’t know anything about Chinese grammar but you guys gave us kindness so we have to return it. we are Japanese and Taiwanese, both of us understand that, right? There is nothing that can frighten me if I remember the disaster of the earthquake. Even if I don’t have education in Chinese, what’s stopping me from giving a speech in Chinese? I written the memory in Chinese and practiced reading right in the disaster area. That made me remember everything and I cried so many times.

In style of Kesen family mark furoshiki, I put them on the desk and prayed, then I started to calm down. 2000 people who died in the Tsunami’s souls came to me. I was surprised that I could speak Chinese very smoothly. I was just speaking without worrying. I felt something controlling me. I put my two hands together and prayed ‘Mozoyana’ (words of Kesen praying) and my words and movements fit each other. I was speaking about the disaster with my feeling. It’s not language, it was a feeling.

The professor told me he received my feelings very well. He had just heard a Japanese singer singing in Chinese but my speech was much easier to understand. That comment made me surprised. The suffering caused by the earthquake made me able to do that. Also I felt people’s souls helping me. Anyways, it wasn’t very good Chinese but the victim going to Taiwan directly and telling them thanks was the main point. As a Japanese, I think I could keep the rule of passing back appreciation and thanks.

——-The quotation ends here-


I think we could say Sato’s mission ‘Telling Taiwan thanks’’ was successful. Maybe it is just my personal opinion but I also think it’ll spread more.

It was a great example of disaster survivors wanting to connect with overseas people. It was great for studying English and using it. It helped people continue to be active if you wanted to. If you continue to be active you can make nice relationships.

Sato always says ‘I never study Chinese’. Maybe it’s right. Sato never study’s with just his brain, he studies with his whole body. Sato also says that completing the book and practicing his reading was all supported by people. Still though, if Sato didn’t start, no one could have helped him.

I hope Sato’s way of thinking spreads to many people and each one starts doing something. This was the story of the seeds shop owner who recreated his life from rubble, using a handmade well, covered in mud.

Now it’s our turn.

The end


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